As I enter the aromatic coffee shop from the cold I see my young barista is rumpled, unkempt, her honey-blond hair bound in a scarf. Once again she pays the price in the morning for a night spent seeking out those gossamer mysteries of twenty that vanish at the slightest touch.
I hear her speak to someone else. Her voice is a throaty loam in which anything might grow. Today in her voice are jumbled wildflowers and kitchen herbs tangled in sunlight. Her voice is always of the earth.
She laughs her very serious laugh and returns to her work, content for the moment to make coffee and chai and small talk.
She sees me, the enigmatic man who’s very nearly old, and smiles, and comes to greet me. She knows I'm in love with her because I tell her so every day. I make her think I’m joking.
Her long lithe body bends and sways as she navigates her way through the choppy seas of coffee shop tables and caffeinated patrons to come to me. Her shy full breasts catch me watching and seem puzzled – doesn’t every woman have a body like this? I wish I could tell them otherwise but I know they wouldn’t listen so I watch her hips instead.
She reaches me and smiles again and begins to tell me of last evening’s alarums and tomorrow’s excursions. As she talks her tongue stud occasionally glitters in indignation at being caught doing secret things inside of her mouth. I absorb her words through my skin.
She looks into my eyes as she speaks to me. Unknowing, her pale green eyes arc through mine and cause a vast short-circuit in my brain, creating a chaos of surmise that feeds upon the day’s placid and orderly plans. The image of her jade eyes flashes down into my heart and ignites it, finding fuel where none would think to find it. The incendiary image of her eyes at last seems content to stop at my sex and sear it with a cheerfully bright flame. I struggle to ignore this because moaning in delicious agony ought not to be done in a coffee shop.
They’re nice eyes.
She hugs me, a full hug, a hug given the way all hugs by beautiful women should be given. By her hug I am restored internally. My brain electronics are once again operational except for a few stray sparks that sputter and hiss; the embers in my heart promise to keep me aglow for the rest of the day; and my sex has been seared to perfection and is ready to be eaten. I don’t tell her this. Instead I hug her back and purr softly.
But in the short second of that hug I want to grab her tightly and bind her and make off with her to Madrid. I want us to sit con café in the Plaza Mayor on a May morning and laugh at the sleepy vernal city. I want to stroll through the warmly alien halls of the Prado with her and tell her of El Greco if she has not yet met him. I want to lie beside her on the summer grass in the park and watch the old men who are not me play bocce. Do they call it that in Spain? We would find out.
What does a twenty-year-old know of sex? I would teach her. We would study the twelve great archetypes of orgasm and the liturgy of the tongue. I would teach her of that immaculate white passion where time ends and we become Ouroboros, consuming ourselves and creating the world as we eternally die. I would instruct her in the pungent cruelty of love, that is its preservative when it would otherwise rot and fail. And she in her turn would guide me through her own warm Prado, and teach me that which she least suspects she knows.
I will ruin her for twenty-year-old boys.
But the hug is over now and she glides back to the counter to languorously make some plain thin woman a latte, her jade eyes squinting slightly in the sunlight that streams through the window. I regain my composure and resume being enigmatic and very nearly old.
But if I were twenty again – if I were even one day younger – I would steal her away and we would run off to Spain and love and die with our limbs entangled. Maybe tomorrow I will be one day younger and I will steal her away then.
Today I can be glad that her smile and her pale green eyes and her honey-blond hair grace this café in a Midwestern January when all else is sere and bleak. And I can write her this story and show it to her, and tell her that it’s all lies, and she’ll know better and laugh her very serious laugh.